Until 2021, Kentucky was in the minority of states without an educational choice program. Then, in March 2021, Kentucky enacted the Education Opportunity Account Program: an expansive program to gives thousands of low- and middle-income families in Kentucky greater educational choice as early as the 2021-22 school year. The Institute for Justice is intervening on behalf of two Kentucky parents, Akia McNeary and Nancy Deaton, who intend to use the program to obtain the education that will best meet the needs of their children.
The program is available to families earning up to 175% of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s income cap for reduced-price lunch. Eligible families may receive Education Opportunity Accounts: savings accounts that they can use on a wide array of educational expenses, including tutoring services, on-line learning programs, classes or extracurricular activities provided by a public school, and tuition for dual-credit college courses. Families in counties with 90,000 or more residents can also use their accounts to pay for private school tuition.
The Education Opportunity Account Program is funded entirely by private donations: The state offers a tax credit to private donors for their contributions to non-profit account-granting organizations (AGOs). The AGOs, in turn, fund families’ accounts with those donations. On June 7, 2021, the Council for Better Education (CBE), a group representing Kentucky public school districts, filed a lawsuit challenging the program’s constitutionality under the Kentucky Constitution. The lawsuit echoes common arguments used in legal attacks on school choice programs.
The Institute for Justice, the nation’s leading advocate for school choice, is defending the program on behalf of two parents of children who are eligible to receive Education Opportunity Accounts under the program. IJ formally intervened to defend the program on June 9, 2021.